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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Nature Awareness and the Sacred Questions?

Aboriginal cultures have used Nature-Awareness since time immemorial. However, recently it’s become popular with Bushcraft schools throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. Two distinct forms have emerged within the UK, the first is commonly referred to as ‘what’s on the box is what you get’, e.g. someone wishing to make a fire by rubbing sticks together (known as fire by friction) must first identify and select the appropriate wood, shape it and employ the correct physical technique to obtain fire. Based purely on factual information it is constant throughout and does not require someone to change their internal-landscape; this ‘factual information’ is regurgitated each time someone wishes to make a fire.

The second is a spiritual-based attitude, were the belief is there’s more to life than just the physical, staying with the ‘box-analogy’. I believe if you climb the inside of the box, open the lid and look around, there is much more to see, learn and experience, about the world around you. It is known that Native Americans (The 1st Nation) and other 1st nation primary cultures use an awareness which believes that were not separate from, but an integral part of nature. The American 1st nation calls this ‘the spirit that moves through all things’, suggesting a ‘Power Greater than ourselves or a Higher Power’.

Aboriginal elders teachings are integrated providing a doorway to spirit, for example Brown (2004) once asked Grandfather (his mentor Stalking Wolf, a Lipan Apache) why was it he always knew where the owls were? Grandfather replied “go ask the mice” this statement demands we listen and pay attention to what the concentric-rings of nature teaches us. According to Sahtouris (1992) “…the traditional ways of knowing is not a science that stands apart from nature to look at it objectively; it does not eliminate the scared, but integrates it” (p. 4), thus fostering a dialogue between humans and nature.

If we believe we are not separate from nature, we are invited to see the world differently, by digesting our thoughts, feelings and emotions; we change our internal-landscape. Brown, (2004) invites us to ask the “Sacred Questions [1] what has happened here (the physical), [2] what is this telling me (the energetic), [3] what does this mean (the spiritual)”. Interestingly grounded-theory asks the same questions where the data is also digested and not regurgitated. Regarding these questions, instead of knowing what wood is best for making fire by friction (physical); we internally explore our relationship (energetic) with the trees and when we truly connect with our ‘Heart’ we ‘Meet our Tree’, we discover (spiritual) the answers to our questions like [1] how do I feel (physical), [2] what’s this wood teaching me about myself and my environment (energetically), and [3] what does this mean to me ‘in my recovery’ (spiritual).

When a spiritual-connection takes place, something has changed, is changing. Spirituality has been described as “the divine essence of an individual” (Carroll, 1997, p. 29). Nature- Awareness takes us on a journey of self-exploration in nature which asks for internal-changes, through the process of “Learning with the Heart” (Cornell, 1989). I believe this gives us a greater understanding of, our relationship with self, our fellow human-beings and ultimately, with a ‘Higher Power’. Emoto (2004) believes that when our hearts are truly-open to other possibilities we begin noticing small changes which can lead us to “enormous discoveries” (p. xx) by connecting with an ‘Open Heart’ and exploring our feelings, thoughts and emotions we learn to deal with ourselves honourably and respectfully. Linden et al. (2002) states “If we do not consider ourselves connected with nature we are in a state of disconnection… this is what shattered lives are about” (p. 18).

Nature-Awareness can be taken into woodlands, parks or gardens, while the principle of 'nature sets the boundaries' still applies, participants learn that they can have an active and productive roll in their own self-development. However, our youth can (Brown, 1983; & Russell et al. 2000) become subdued, due to the pressures of our society, parents, education and the state, from an early age they are under immense pressure to live a certain way i.e. celebrity status, like footballers/models. They believe they have no real alternatives in life, their excitement and sense of adventure is all but gone, causing them to seek adventure elsewhere (rarely following their hearts), which might be expressed on our streets, through anti-social behaviour, supported by drugs and alcohol abuse (binge drinking) or crime.

Brown (1983) found through his work that to “…dull the pain or boredom, many seek the oblivion of alcohol, the false escape of drugs, the adventure of vandalism, and sometimes the freedom of suicide” (p. 7). Brown (1983) believes that “awareness goes beyond the physical... awareness is the doorway to spirit… the challenge is to step through the doorway” (p. 10).

Indeed Linden et al. (2002) informs us of the ‘Great Prophets’ who in NATURE found “Spiritual renewal… Jesus in the desert, Moses up on the mountain, the Buddha in the forest" (p. 22) or an ‘Addict Meeting a Tree’, nature can and does touch us on a very profound and deep level.

Nature-Awareness invites the addict and indeed others to step through that door, raising our level of awareness, becoming more self-empowered, and seeing things in life we perhaps previously ignored or we were just simply unaware of. According to the “Biophilia Hypothesis” (Bird, 2007, p. 4) in which humans seem to have an innate affiliation (humans are genetically pre-disposed) towards our natural-environment, I believe this refers to the physical. Nature-Awareness however, is much more than the physical it’s an integration of the whole.

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